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Evaluating the Atlanta Hawks with FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO ratings

An interesting thought exercise.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

While changes to the roster are possible between now and the start of training camp in September, the 2018-19 Atlanta Hawks might just be “set” right now. Lingering questions remain about Dennis Schroder’s trade market but, aside from that potential drama, much of the roster seems to be locked in place for the near future and that provides an interesting opportunity for analysis.

Prior to each season, Nate Silver and the crew at FiveThirtyEight use their CARMELO model to project each NBA player looking forward in a number of categories. The data is publicly available, tracking what a player has done in the past (and at the college level for rookies) and using a formula to look ahead while valuing players by salary.

A deeper look at the model can be found here but, for our purposes, we wanted to break down each member of Atlanta’s roster by actual salary (for 2018-19 and beyond) when compared to what CARMELO believes that player will actually be “worth” in the future, keeping in mind that the numbers are not salary-cap driven. For example, LeBron James is projected to be “worth” $86.6 million for the 2018-19 season and, well, that isn’t allowed by NBA rules.

As a note, Jaylen Adams, Antonius Cleveland and Jaylen Morris are not evaluated by the model, presumably due to a lack of available information on the two “veterans” and the fact that Adams was undrafted.

Without further ado, let’s roll through the roster in alphabetical order for a quick glance at each member of the Hawks, taking current contracts into account.

Kent Bazemore

  • Actual - $37.36 million for next two seasons (player option for 19-20)
  • CARMELO - $24.7 million for next two seasons; $13.1 million for 2018-19

It comes as no surprise that Bazemore is seen as overpaid, though the model clearly values him as a strong rotation contributor worthy of an eight-figure salary. This is basically in line with the league-wide consensus on Bazemore, who would help almost any team while also not acting as a linchpin for many.

DeAndre’ Bembry

  • Actual - $4.24 million for next two seasons (team option for 2019-20)
  • CARMELO - $0.6 million for next two seasons (-$600,000 for 2018-19)

Bembry’s rough injury history and ugly offensive efficiency lead to an unkind evaluation of his future. Defensively, the model treats him as a positive and that makes sense, but hideous turnover and true shooting percentages are the undoing.

John Collins

  • Actual - $9.12 million for next three seasons (team options for 19-20 and 20-21)
  • CARMELO - $71.3 million for next three seasons ($15.9 million for 2018-19)

Simply put, CARMELO loves John Collins. As a spoiler, he is seen as Atlanta’s best asset moving forward. If the $71.3 million evaluation over the life of his current contract wasn’t enough, he is seen as north of a $30 million player annually after that and that should provide Hawks fans with a great deal of optimism.

Dewayne Dedmon

  • Actual - $7.2 million
  • CARMELO - $6.5 million

I would quibble a little bit with the evaluation here, as I would value Dedmon probably in the $8-10 million range. Still, this is basically the market value and, if his shooting proves to be real again, justifying his $7.2 million salary for the upcoming season won’t be an issue in the slightest.

Tyler Dorsey

  • Actual - $1.378 million
  • CARMELO - (Negative) $3.1 million

Dorsey is not under contract beyond this season, meaning that he is treated differently here than the other young players. While players like Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman (see below) are chronicled moving forward, Dorsey is not and, well, CARMELO sees him as a swift negative for the upcoming campaign. In fact, the model doesn’t see him as even a semi-positive contributor until the 2020-21 season.

Kevin Huerter

  • Actual - $11.9 million for next four seasons (team options for 2020-21 and 2021-22)
  • CARMELO - $20.3 million for next four seasons (-$1.9 million as a rookie)

It isn’t a shock to see Huerter evaluated as a negative player for his rookie season, as most rookies aren’t very good immediately. The future is bright, though, as the model sees him as an overall positive on his rookie contract, using shooting and floor-spacing as the impetus.

Jeremy Lin

  • Actual - $13.77 million
  • CARMELO - $3.1 million

Woof. Without knowing everything about the model, this swoon appears to be based on last season’s (very) brief stint on the floor and perceived injury risk. Lin, if healthy, is almost certainly worth more than $3 million, even if I have some skepticism on the veteran guard living up to a $13.77 million bounty in his one year under contract.

Mike Muscala

  • Actual - $5.0 million
  • CARMELO - $2.9 million

I’ve been higher on Muscala than the consensus for a while and that rings true again here. I have no quibble with the perception of him as a solid, yet unspectacular, bench piece and that is baked in to the evaluation.

Miles Plumlee

  • Actual - $25 million for next two seasons; $12.5 million in 2018-19
  • CARMELO - (Negative) $5.8 million for next two seasons; (Negative) $4.3 million for 18-19

Plumlee’s contract is one of the worst in the NBA and CARMELO takes it to even another level by projecting him as a player worthy of complete negative value for the next two seasons. You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger gap between salary owed and actual projection. It’s ugly.

Taurean Prince

  • Actual - $6.0 million for next two seasons; team option for 2019-20
  • CARMELO - $20.5 million for next two seasons; $9.3 million for 2018-19

CARMELO sees Prince as something of an average starter, projecting him for a five-year value of $55 million. That sounds about right in the aggregate, taking into account that his offensive explosion late last season might not be (fully) real and he’ll need to see an uptick in his defensive effort to sustain. At the very least, though, he’ll provide value on his contract for the next two seasons.

Dennis Schroder

  • Actual - $46.5 million for next three seasons; $15.5 million annually
  • CARMELO - $25.1 million for next three seasons; $8.2 million for 2018-19

We’ve arrived at an interesting player. Schroder’s contract is a burden for the Hawks right now and that is on full display when dealing with his trade market. Throw in the looming legal issue and you have a full-fledged pickle. On the floor, though, Schroder is paid like an average starter (or slightly better) and the model doesn’t see that. His overall value is closer to the $8.2 million for next season than the $15.5 million that he is owed, at least in my opinion, though it would be interesting to see how he played elsewhere if given the opportunity.

Omari Spellman

  • Actual - $9.1 million for next four seasons (team options for 2020-21 and 2021-22)
  • CARMELO - $15.8 million for next four seasons ($1.0 million as a rookie)

Spellman was a controversial pick in round one but, at the very least, his projection here is a reinforcement that rookie-scale contracts are a great value on the whole. The model doesn’t love him but, even then, the overall return is positive.

Trae Young

  • Actual - $25.5 million for next four seasons (team options for 2020-21 and 2021-22)
  • CARMELO - $54.6 million for next four seasons ($2.3 million as a rookie)

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, CARMELO sees Young as a great offensive prospect with real defensive issues. That combination means he is a fantastic value on his contract and, long-term, the model projects him to be “worth” $85.7 million for the next five years, even when considering his underwhelming projection as a rookie. The numbers like him, just not as much as Collins.

As an off-season thought exercise, this is fun, even if it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Let the arguments begin.